Toddler swallowed a coin – What can I do?

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toddler swallowed a coin
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My husband, almost everyday gets some coins while buys the daily grocery for us. We have a pouch on a bookshelf where he keeps on collecting them. Once, when my daughter was playing, and had learnt to reach higher up using her table and small chair, she pulled quite a few of them down. Just like she does with everything else, she began to taste them and thankfully, I saw her at that instant. Though she did not swallow the coin, it set me thinking. What if she had swallowed the coins? What would be the first line of action? And that’s why, I am putting up all that I could find on what to do if a child swallowed a penny.

If you will talk to elders, you will probably be told that if a toddler has swallowed a coin, he or she would excrete it. Normally, this holds true, because the coin does travel down the esophagus, into the digestive tract and finally making its way to the stool, to be passed out. But sometimes, the coin can get stuck – and due to this risk, it is important to take clinical practice help to push the coin out of the child’s system.

Emergency symptoms if a child swallows a penny

You need to immediately visit the hospital, in emergency if your child shows any of the below symptoms after swallowing a coin –

  1. It appears he has difficulty breathing
  2. The child appears to be drooling excessively
  3. Vomiting- or the child attempts to vomit because he feels something is stuck
  4. Sudden fever, excessive coughing and noisy breathing
  5. You can feel him choking

Without any delay, take your child to the doctor as these symptoms indicate that the coin has not made its way to the stomach and is stuck in the esophagus and can result in dangerous consequences. Now while the situation may seem panicky, remember that timely action could prevent further damage and so you need to act fast.

Another very important thing to note is NOT to let your child sleep immediatelly after he has swallowed a coin. Sometimes, because of the hurt in the throat, due to the pressure of swelling, a child could want to sleep, but sleeping if the coin is stuck could make it shift and block the airways – which can put the child’s life at risk.

First aid if your child has swallowed a coin

First thing, if you have seen or have known that your child has swallowed a coin, and he is not showing any serious symptoms, you should not, in any case, try to induce vomiting. Also, refrain from giving your child anything to eat or drink unless he wants to. Without delay, take your child to a nearest paediatrician.
If you are sure your child has swallowed either a coin or something else that cannot be poisonous, you can-

  1. Watch your child closely for any symptoms such as those listed above
  2. Check his poop everytime for the next 4 days or till the coin or the foreign object is expelled out
  3. Make sure your child has fibrous, soft food and does not face any difficulty in eating or drinking
  4. Make sure that your toddler is not showing any signs of any discomfort such as heavy breathing, nausea, coughing or fever
  5. Make sure that your child is well-hydrated, so that he can pass the stool and the coin with it

Child seems fine after swallowing a coin

If your child does not exhibit any serious symptoms, it could be that the coin has been through the stomach and into the colon and will be expelled in the stool. However, you need to watch your child closely because there is still a possibility that the coin has been stuck in the intestines, which could pose the risk of rupturing the intestinal walls. Watch out for blood in the stool, which indicates the tearing of the intestinal walls. Your child will also complain of stomach pain and nausea or may vomit if the coin is bothering his digestive tract.
child swallows a penny
Sometimes, children are able to eat and drink normally even if the penny is still inside. But you may notice your child coughing up quite a bit. The coughing indicates that the coin has not made its way into the stool and so it is best to get a doctor’s appointment.

Toddler swallowed a coin – how long to pass?

Usually, a penny that has made its way into the stomach, will be excreted by the child in about 2 days or maximum 4-5 days. Anything longer than this requires medical help. Your paediatrician will tell you to wait for 3-4 days and then he may recommend X-rays and other medical procedures to ascertain the next course of action.

Never ever try to hasten the process by giving laxatives to your child or making him eat beyond his will. Take things easy and wait patiently.

Treatment and removal of a coin swallowed by a child

If your child does not show any signs of uneasiness, but the coin or any other foreign object is still inside the system, it is recommended to visit the doctor after waiting for 4 days. Based on the first hand diagnosis, the doctor may suggest you to wait longer, or advise an X-ray to be done to know the exact location of the coin.

The X-ray will confirm that your child has swallowed a coin, and the location will help your doctor decide the next course of action. He may prescribe some medicines to make your child poop more so as to expel the coin, or he may suggest endoscopy. Though rare, surgery may be done as a last resort, because the coin cannot just be left like that.

Safety tips for children to avert accidents of swallowing

Like I said before, it was our mistake to keep coins within the reach of our daughter. We cannot forget the fact that children, especially toddlers, explore the world by tasting – their first sense. We as parents, need to be a little careful and take some precautions so that these scary accidents do not happen with our kids-

  1. Anything that is small, tiny, shiny presents a choking hazard and must be kept out of your child’s reach
  2. Make sure you never play with coins yourself, so that the child does not get any ideas
  3. Give your child toys that are safe and do not have removable small parts- like screws, nuts, doll eyes and the lot
  4. Make sure that your child plays with toys in your supervision
  5. Exercise caution when you are out with your child – stones, ants, bottle caps etc can all be choking hazards for your precious

Accidents do happen, and they will happen. The best that we as parents can do is to exercise caution and act timely should there be an emergency.

**Please note that this article is for general informational purposes only. This is not written by a medical officer and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.**

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